Renowned Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has urged the President Buhari-led government to handle the issue of RUGA settlement carefully as "there cannot be any kind of society where cattle take priority over human beings."
Soyinka, who was a special guest at the official launch of Solution 17, an initiative geared towards youth empowerment and sustainable development, maintained that the practice of herders' settlement across Nigeria is neither strange nor mysterious.
Fielding questions from newsmen, he said: "Ruga is going to be an exclusive issue and it had better be handled very carefully. Why is it that we fail to take our models from successful performers? There are ways in which people deal, and have dealt for decades--for centuries with cattle everywhere. I travel everywhere. It is nothing so strange; there is nothing mysterious about cattle rearing.
"Why should cattle become a problem just because we like to eat beef? I don't understand it. There are solutions which are very simple. People have talked about ranching, but the ranching has got to be done in places which are environmentally congenial to that particular kind of trade and at the same time do not afflict humanity.
"What's the point in trying to provide food and the food chokes us; which is what cattle and cattle-rearers have been doing? We have a situation where cattle walk up to my own door in Abeokuta which is supposed to be a residential area. There is a problem when cattle go to Ijebu-Ode and eat up Sodipe's (a furniture maker's) planted seedlings.
"And this is someone who is working towards a guaranteed environment by planting trees to replace the trees (timber) which he has used. And then cattle come and eat up all of that and you expect people to sit down and be quiet?
"And then Buhari took such a long time. For me, he deserved--and I have written this down-- to have lost the last election if only on account of the lackadaisical attitude which he took to the issue of cattle-rearers. People have been killed in hundreds till today and it is only because of the failure of leadership at the critical time. That is the most important thing and the cattle rearers have been given a sense of impunity: they kill without any compunction; they drive farmers also who are contributing to the food solution of the country away; burn their crops; eat their crops; and then you come with Ruga.
"I think there is going to be trouble in this country if this cattle-rearing issue is not handled imaginatively and with humanity as the priority. There cannot be any kind of society where cattle take priority over human beings. It is as elementary as that".